In my practice, I have combined two disciplines: accent work; that is, speech, clarity, pronunciation, word stress, intonation and pitch control, and in general, sounding American or not with Executive Presence: that is, voice quality, projection, confidence, “how you show up,” how fast you talk, how in control you are of yourself and your reactions, how comfortable you feel, how loud you can be, how well you convey your message, and how well you can change how you to speak to meet your audience’s needs and expectations.
The question is how do Accent & Presence Interrelate?
- It’s Hard to Have Presence When Your Speech is Unclear: Part of being comfortable and confident when you speak is being in control of your pronunciation and saying things clearly. If you have muffled speech, mispronounce words occasionally, and speak in ways that are difficult for your audience to connect with you, Presence is hard to create. While there is more to communication than how well you speak English, I would argue that if you live in an English speaking country and you want to impress others, you need to have a good command of the spoken language as a point of entry.
- Speaking Clearly is Not Enough: You can pronounce all the words correctly and still not have Executive Presence. In fact, many native speakers talk in disempowering ways that are not inspiring. You can speak English fluently and not come across as confident, decisive, intelligent and insightful. You need to be able to inspire others; communicate your ideas, goals, thoughts, and ambitions clearly and vividly; it’s important to show empathy and exhibit self control. In terms of speech and movement, you need to be able to pace yourself and move and speak fluidly, not just fluently, using loudness and projection when necessary to your advantage. You must be able to craft your message and deliver it as intended, and react to subtle changes along the way. Clearly, Presence is more than accent, and fortunately it is teachable & learnable!
- Combining the Two Modalities Creates Synergy: The concept of synergy (that the combined effect of separate items is greater than their sum) applies here. If you merely work on your accent and separately work on speaking up, presenting, and communicating to an audience, you can gain some new skills, but it is not likely that you will address your whole body with awareness that creates dynamic, holistic change. Doing both speech and presence work together allows your brain to sync up your posture and breathing with your new speaking habits (like clearer pronunciation) so you can project your voice with greater confidence and more fully embrace the new learnings to integrate into a new, comprehensive persona that reflects your deepest beliefs, values, intentions and visualization of your ideal self. The result can be dramatically improved by combining the two modalities in your practice.
Accent & Presence interrelate so completely because the complement each other in many ways. Both speech and presence require us to examine how we speak, breathe, move and interact with others. While accent is more focused on the mouth, throat, jaw, tongue and other facial muscles, presence is more about the whole body, and of course, these areas overlap. Combining them gives you the advantage your brain needs to create meaningful and lasting change.